Green Talk is a blog series featuring interviews with people working in environmental science, circular design, sustainability and green business. We tell stories of kick ass people and their passion!
In this episode of Green Talk we talk with ocean advocate and the Mission Leader for eXXpedition Round the World Sally Earthrowl. Sally shares what she took away from sailing with an all-women crew exploring the impact of plastics and toxics in our ocean.
MP. Who are you and what you do?
Sally. I am a keen environmentalist, adventurer and ocean advocate. I value the importance and power of education as a key contributor to the sustainable management of global issues. As a teacher, I was always student-focused; nurturing a creative learning environment allowing students to flourish and most importantly, develop a passion for the planet they call home and a confidence to take action to protect it.
In 2018, I sailed through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch on eXXpedition North Pacific gaining first-hand experience of the extent of plastic in our oceans and contributing to ‘science at sea’. I am now the Mission Leader for eXXpedition Round the World.
MP. Tell us your earliest memory interacting with the natural world.
Sally. I clearly remember the cusp of the seasons when ‘winter turned to spring’ and I would spend the entire weekend outside playing in the woods with the plants starting to bud. Having lived in the tropics for the past few years this is a particularly poignant memory and one that reminds us of Earth’s rejuvenating power!
MP. How did you get involved with eXXpedition and what does the organisation do?
Sally. I heard about eXXpedition North Pacific via the various networks I worked with in Indonesia and promptly applied! eXXpedition is a non-profit organisation running all-female sailing voyages to research plastic pollution and ocean toxicity. As Mission Leader, I work as part of the team organising the expeditions, the onboard programme, the outreach events and selecting our amazing guest crew! I spend a fair amount of time out at sea facilitating the mission, scientific data collection and working with the local communities that we visit. It’s a phenomenal experience to work so closely with the issue and the opportunity to learn more about it, which enables me to continue to influence change back on land.
MP. What is the most memorable experience you have had onboard an eXXpedition voyage?
Sally. My first voyage, eXXpedition North Pacific will always be memorable as it was the first time I got up close and personal with the issue in such a remote location - the middle of the North Pacific Gyre! It was a transformative experience and one which has seen me change my career path. The last night of that voyage was exceptional. We were treated to a stunning sunset with breaching whales in the near-distance. As night fell, the stars were phenomenal and the bioluminescence in the water were like nothing I’d seen before - real-life ‘Avatar’!
MP. What is the biggest thing you have taken away from people taking part in the expeditions?
Sally. That every action, however big or small, can have a massive influence on the way people act. Finding a group of like-minded people is an amazing way to keep motivated and to deliver an even more powerful message to affect change!
MP. What do you think is the most effective way to influence people?
Sally. I believe that having a better understanding of how our world works, allows all of us to better appreciate its beauty and value, and therefore be propelled to take action!
MP. Why plastic? Why is it a challenge you chose to tackle?
Sally. When living in Indonesia, I became acutely aware of the issue of plastic waste on an island where plastic consumption exceeded the capacity of the waste management infrastructure. Working alongside others on the island who had such passion and motivation to find a suitable solution was inspiring, and a real-life example of how people’s actions can make a massive difference.
MP. Now a really tricky question, what would you use to replace plastic with?
Sally. There are so many alternatives, but not all have a lower environmental impact. The biggest ‘rule’ I live by is asking myself the question, do I really need it? I only get a take away if I have a reusable mug/lunch box with me and I actively try to avoid packaging in the shops.
MP. As designers and communicators we are interested in finding out how we can be most useful tackling the plastic problem?
Sally. Everyone has a role to play and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to this issue. Having a multidisciplinary crew on board each voyage leg gives us a more diverse perspective on the issue and the solutions. Designers and communicators are a key part of the messaging to raise awareness of the issue and the actions for us to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
MP. How do you think your homeland UK, is doing with dealing with the plastic crisis?
Sally. Having returned to the UK in the last year, I have noticed a massive difference in people’s attitudes. People are aware of the issue and taking some individual steps to make a difference, which is brilliant! The UK still has a way to go to implement strategy and initiatives to support people in their endeavours to reduce single-use plastic and support the development of alternatives. The Government are taking action and have pledged to ban many single-use items in April 2020. They also work alongside Commonwealth countries to support the Clean Ocean Alliance with the view that this global issue needs to be tackled from a global perspective.
MP. How does a perfect day look like to you?
Sally. There is nothing more invigorating than being out on the water or by the coast with a blustery breeze to clear the cobwebs and be reminded of the beauty and power of our planet.
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Photo credit: eXXpedition, Eleanor Church Lark Rise Pictures.